Derek Henderson Talking About Friends, Idols, Heart Issues and Man-Blading

Introduction & Interview by Joey Ihara
Photography by Jared Peterson

Conversation over quite a few beers.

Derek, you’re one of the baddest dudes on blades, and I’m sure everyone knows that by now, but let’s dig a little deeper. What motivates you to blade?

Haha, that’s a tough one. Right off the bat we’re gonna get serious, here it is. Blading in general to me means homies, it’s just all about the friends. I wake up every day, I do my 12 hour shift and all I think about is blading. When I go blading I’m with good friends, and I always have a good time, basically that’s the bottom line. If I’m at a skatepark doing soulgrinds with my homies, shooting the shit, or I’m trying to get something serious, it all basically means good times and good people. That keeps me motivated, as long as I got my homies supporting me. That’s blading to a T. We’re always having a good time, that’s fucking it man.

You’re getting married soon. That’s a big change. Do you think you can balance the married life and the blading life?

I have a beautiful girl who I’ve been with for a long time. She’s always supported my blading. She lets me blade pretty much whenever I want and she knows it’s really important to me. Basically you just have to work both worlds. I come home most of the time and I have to blade, thats just me and she knows it. She knows i have to go blade, but on the other hand, I know I have to spend time with her. I don’t think a whole lot is gonna change once we get married. I think more will change when we have kids. That would be a totally different story. I love blading, and I love her and I juggle both. I’ve been juggling both for a long time you know. I’ve never turned my back on my girl for blading and vice versa, so it’s been a happy medium. I’ve done it with work too. I’ve been working a whole lot and have been able to blade and produce shit for my sponsors and still have fun with the her and the homies. So I don’t think its gonna be a big deal. I think I’m gonna be able to do my thing and hope people enjoy it. 

Good answer. I hear you talking about balancing the life of a blader and a guy who’s in love and wanting to get married/start a family. Are there people you look up to that have a family but still shred on the blades?

Yes, the first person that comes to mind is Richie Velasquez. The dude has a beautiful family and kills it on the blades. I think he balances it really well. I’m jealous of his skatepark skills. I wish I could skate park like that guy. He still blades and he looks like he’s having fun, and you know Pam has his back 100%. There’s also people like Josh Petty, who I’ve looked up to for a long time. He’s got a wife and a kid but you still see pics of him on blades. I like to think I can still be a part of blading, even if I had kids.

What do you have going on in the blading world?

The wheel scene interview just dropped. We’re doing this Be-mag thing as we speak. The Razors video is about to come out, and I’m ready for anything else. I just work my grind and eat my meals and anything any one of my sponsors wants I try to give it to them as fast as I can. My Fester edit just came out. Sometime it takes a little longer. Other people might not have a secure job or life like I do, but I work my ass off in both worlds so anything my sponsors want I’m happy to give.

Going back to that wheel scene interview, I see this term ‘Man blading” floating around in there. What are your thoughts on ‘man blading’? What the hell is it?

First off, I am a man, and I blade, so i think that’s where the term ‘Man blading’ came from. Basically I think it means that I work a steady job, with abnormal hours and am still blading. I’m not into trendy things. That’s one of the main reasons I started blading: to be my own person. Even though there are set trends in rollerblading, I do not follow any of them. I’ve always been me, whether people like it or not. I love to blade and I do it because I love it, and I can’t fucking quit. ‘Man blading’ wasn’t anything I told anyone to say about me. It just sort of happened. Maybe because I have an old school style, and now that old school bladers are grown ass men, they call me a ‘Man blader’. ?

I’ve always believed in your blading from the first time I met you, but Matt Mickey has been believing in you and sponsoring you since back in your mowhawk and camo pants days. How did that happen?

Matt Mickey was the first person to ever give a shit about this poor, shaved head kid from Fresno. I took a couple of trips down there and bladed with the Bakersfield guys and had a good time. All of the sudden Matt wanted me to ride am for the shop. I was more than excited. We became really good friends over the years. He’s basically my manager, even though he’s my sponsor. I trust him with my blading decisions. I wouldn’t have any other sponsors or blade exposure if it wasn’t for him. That dude is a hard working motherfucker and he shares my love for blading. He works his grind and does it all for blading. He lives for blading, and that’s just fucking epic. That helps me to keep going: seeing people like Matt and Richie loving blading and giving their lives for it. I appreciate all that he’s done for me and he’s fucking badass.?

Growing up the way you did, how would you inspire kids that may have the same life to keep blading?

I would tell them that if you absolutely love blading, nothing bad can from it. How much love there is, is up to them. I grew up less fortunate than a lot of people, and a lot of rough things happened, but blading really did save my life. I’ve been clean for a long time, blading kept me straight. My fiance too: I found a really good girl who loves me for who I am and that helped me a lot too. Blading kept me associated with the right people at the right time. If I’m pissed off or angry, instead of doing something stupid, I can just put on my blades and do whatever I want. I would tell the kids to keep doing what they love, if it’s blading or art or whatever man. Some people fish (laughter). I fucking fish, but I don’t call my self a fisherman. I’m a fucking rollerblader. That’s what I do and that’s all I know.

What are your thoughts on rollerblading nowadays?

There’s a lot of blading that’s not interesting to me personally. It’s really good blading, but it’s probably the same feeling some people have about my style: you either love it or hate it. There is no middle. Chris Haffey and Nitro Circus is amazing, that dude is always on top. I think Haffey and Brian Aragon make blading look badass and keep it hard as fuck. They are doing big things and that’s what I like about it. As far as general blading goes, it’s fine. It’s going to do what it wants and either I’m going to be a part of it or not. That doesn’t really bother me. I sometimes see trends in an untrendy sport, it doesn’t make sense. Some people hate on my blading, but it doesn’t make sense to me that a blader would hate on another blader. I see blading that I don’t like, but I wouldn’t go online talking about it or telling them in person, unless we had beef. It’s a brotherhood that shouldn’t be talked about that way. There’s people who wear different clothes than me, and listen to different music, but they fuckin blade. Whatever blading does, it will do, and it will flourish. It’s just gonna take time.  

Who’s the most badass old school blader?

I started blading when I was 8 years old, and I watched a lot of old school videos. I couldn’t comprehend a lot of what they were doing, because i only did frontsides and soul grinds. The first person to actually stick out to me and that had some kind of style was the viking, Rene Hulgreen. His style was just so different from anyone else. Arlo was epic, he was always badass. The cowboys from hell section made them that much cooler. It’s kind of ironic that Rene sticks out so much to me because he blades halfpipe, totally the opposite of what I blade. I was already skating for about 8 years when I first went to a skatepark. As an 8 years old, watching Rene pounding beer and shred a halfpipe was epic. Nowadays there’s Broskow, Aragon and Farmer. Those are the top 3 dudes that kids want to imitate. I totally understand idolizing your heroes, and I think they should get that love and they should have their pro skates sold and everything else. The problem is that these kids want to be their heroes, and they aren’t gonna get anywhere in blading. Do it because you love it. I do it because I love it and I am just me. I’m not trying to be someone else. I still idolize Josh Petty, he’s my favorite blader, but I don’t want to be Josh Petty. I want to bring what I got to the fucking table and see if rollerblading accepts it, and if it doesn’t, fine, I’m still gonna blade regardless. Now every kid wants to do 900’s to grinds at the skatepark, but you can’t do it like Aragon. If you’re trying to get yourself a name off of someone else, how is it gonna work? Aragon will do his tricks better than you will ever do. You can not skate like Broskow. No matter how much you try to look like him, you can’t make his name, its already been done. What do you do? You bring your nuts and set em on the table and you show the world what you got, right? I’m not going to be anyone that I don’t want to be. 

That’s why your blading is so appealing. It’s a different way of blading, crazy yet controlled, preconceived madness, it’s you.

That’s what I’m talking about. I like to see people do things the way they were born to do them. I’m not blading to be pro or to look like someone else, I’m blading because I fucking love it. Why should there be a set way to do things in the most untrendy sport in the history of sports? It’s stupid. This isn’t skateboarding, where you’re not cool if you’re not wearing a fucking Volcom shirt.

If you had a microphone and a soap box, and the whole blading community was here right now, what would you say?

I’ve been blading for a long time, and back then everyone was different. Everyone probably wore baggier clothes, but still had their own style. Nobody tried to be anyone else and that’s why blading was so fucking sick. It was a culture of people and different personalities. Latimer, Sagona and Petty skated nothing alike. They were completely themselves. There was no such thing as ‘hip hop’ or ‘rock’ bladers then. Petty used hip hop, metal, whatever, in his sections. He was just being himself and he was doing what he loved and you can tell. I’d say be yourself and do it because you goddamn love it.

My brother Ricky enters my apartment and I ask him to talk to Derek. Ricky Ihara: You had heart issues as a kid, but you kept on blading. What still fuels the fire?

I honestly don’t know what fuels me but the fuel never stops. I think it has something to do with being a sick kid. I had severe asthma from the day i was born until I was 9 and I also had 4 heart surgeries at the age of 9. I started blading when I was 8 years old. My brother got me into it. I’d like to think that helped me, because at the time of my last heart surgery, I had already been blading for a year. They had a monitor hooked up to me and everything and they were monitoring what my heart did while i was outside blading a curb. When I got out of the surgery, the doctors said my heart was functioning best when I was blading. The doctors said I should stop doing sports. I could have done any sport, but I kept on blading. I went from a sick little kid not able to go outside, to being able to blade and just let it all go. I bladed my curb for 2 years straight before I could blade anything else. My mom wouldn’t let me go anywhere you know, and I was too young to go blade with my brother. I think that’s why my street style is so prominent no matter how much I try to blade skateparks. I was just a sick helpless fucking kid growing up watching Schwarzenegger movies wanting to be big and strong. I think i definitely grew up to be what I wanted to be. Strong and still able to blade. After all these years that’s just what kept me going. Matt Mickey is a big part of it too. He opened a whole new world for me. I never bladed to be sponsored of gave a fuck, to me it was all about the homies. I love kicking it with my boys and having good times blading, sessioning, drinking, whatever. Then Matt gave me everything I could fucking ask for and it’s just been hell’s fury since then. That dude is fucking amazing. He’s the only one to back up my blading when no one else gave a shit. I’ll rep Intuition until the day I die. 

Joey Ihara: Who are your current sponsors?

I just got on Fester wheels. I’m stoked about that. Those dudes are doing it real good. They got fucking badass wheels, I’m 195 pounds and those wheels last for me, that’s all I got to say about Fester. I’ve been riding razors since I was 16. To get on razors was just fucking perfect fit. I’ve been on Intuition since I was 18 years old. That was just the most epic thing to happen. I’ve been riding Ground Controls since I was 16 and they just recently picked me up. Those are basically all my sponsors. I’ve been riding for Sec9 my whole life.

Sec9, our crew. The roster has changed but the message has stayed the same: stay ‘juiced’ (sorry JSF) on blading, and stay ‘juiced’ on life. Be happy with what you have. What do you feel about being an integral part of Sec9? 

Sec9 has meant everything to me since I was 10 years old, when I became a member. I remember just being able to blade with you, your brother, my brother, Hindmarsh, and all the other guys before me. It was a family thing. We rolled 30 deep and bladed every day. That’s another reason why I came up blading. Fresno Sec9 was booming when I started, and I fit perfectly into the mold of these already badass bladers that would take me around and show me spots at such a young age. The roster has fallen, It’s gone from 30 to like 3. I have it tattooed 3 separate times on my body. Sec9 is near a goddamn gang (laughing), a good gang though, just a family. Sec9 is blading for me dude, the homies, and good times. If it wasn’t homies or good times I wouldn’t do it. Sec9 is fucking love, and life. 

I’ll drink to that…

We got 4 members now! (Pointing to my brother, who moved back to town).

I want to ask you one solid question, whats your favorite trick?

The grom question. I love it. This interview has to have this question. 

The kids are dying to know!

Can you do a front flip?

Haha a fucking front flip.

True top soul, man. 

True top soul?

True top soul, man. No 540 true top soul, just true top soul. 

I have another one. The other day we were blading a spot, it was hot as shit and bugs were biting me, but you were so determined to land this one trick, just the way you wanted it. There have been thousands of times where you focus on landing a specific trick the way you want it, regardless of what others think. Why is that?

I think they way I blade makes it hard to get it perfect. Getting photos is the hardest. I’ve sent out some bad photos and clips before, and I’ve kind of learned my lesson: never put out whack shit. I’d rather put out one edit a year that is badass than put out some filler. If someone wants something real from me, I’m going to do my best. I’ll do a trick a million times until the clip turns out the way I want it. ?

As the night went on, more beers were had, and I had some more questions. Who’s your favorite metal guitarist and or band?

It’s a toss up. Number one would be Dave Mustaine, fucking Megadeth is fucking god. I don’t believe in religion, but if i did it would be from the book of Dave Mustaine. Second place would deffinately be Zach Wylde. I listen to a lot of metal but its basically just Megadeth, Black Label, Slayer, Testament and Lazerus. ?

Who’s your favorite hip hop artist?

Nobody. (laughing)

Thanks for the interview Derek! 

That’s it? You’re welcome Joey.